The construction of major infrastructure projects in the Western Isles is preparing to restart.

This is consistent with Scottish Government guidance set out in its recent route-map and follows yesterday's (Thursday May 28th) announcement by the First Minister of the move to its Phase 1 of Covid recovery. 

Talks are also to be held about the impact of this on public transport to and from the Islands.

The Scottish Government has agreed a phased and incremental approach to the restart process with those involved in the industries concerned.

This starts with the preparation of construction sites to put in place risk mitigation measures including physical distancing, enhanced hygiene by installing new or expanded site welfare and toilet facilities, one-way systems and marking 2m distancing throughout the site.

Subject to the requirements of the Health and Safety Executive and of the respective construction Contracts being met, subsequent stages of the construction sector restart plan, comprising a phased return of a proportion of the workforce and the restart of construction activity, are, in turn, subject to further consultation between and the agreement of the government and industry leaders.

In any case, activity will not commence for at least a further two weeks after the publication of any such agreement and subsequent updated advice.

A further consideration for the islands' construction sector will be access to ferry and air services which have been the subject of restrictions since March.  The Comhairle is currently liaising with Transport Scotland on the matter and it has been confirmed by the government that appropriate changes to timetabling arrangements for and access to ferry services will only be implemented following engagement with island authorities.

 A Comhairle spokesman confirmed, "The Comhairle, in collaboration with partner organisations including Hebridean Housing Partnership, will continue to adhere to Scottish Government guidance in all matters associated with the move from the lockdown".

"Projects including the new care home and social housing at Goathill, Stornoway, the improvements to Lochmaddy Pier, North Uist, and the provision of extended Early Years provision at Stornoway Primary are major investment projects for the Western Isles. 

"The construction activity arising from these projects makes a significant contribution to the economy of the islands and we are glad that this will be able to restart in an incremental and safe manner".

"The initial stages, likely to be commenced week commencing 1 June, involve preparing sites to enable the introduction of safe systems of work and enhanced hygiene measures, and will involve very small teams of contractors' personnel moving back to the sites.

"We look forward to further guidance from the government over the coming days regarding the ‘soft-start’ of construction works, which we currently anticipate being in the second half of June. 

"Similarly, we expect it to comprise, in the initial stages, small numbers of specific staff and subcontractors and the use of island-based site personnel wherever practicable.”